Don’t blame schools for frats

Double Vision

Antonio V. Figueroa

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a Mindanao legislator, was the most vocal in the Senate to suggest that schools must be held accountable for what students do, especially in their involvement in banned fraternity and sorority practices outside the campus. Freely dropping the legal parlance of ‘in loco parentis,’ he was insistent that learning institutions whose students are involved in anti-hazing initiations must assume an extended obligations and have to be included as culpable violators.

‘In loco parentis,’ originally part of the English common law and is derived from the Latin for “in the place of a parent”, is defined as “the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent.”

Experts cite two reasons for the legal principle’s relevance, namely: (i) “it grants educational institutions such as colleges and schools discretion to act in the best interests of their students, although not allowing what would be considered violations of the students’ civil liberties” and (ii) “this doctrine may allow a non-biological parent to exercise the legal rights and responsibilities of a biological parent if they have held themselves out as the parent.”

While the intent of this legal rule is good, this is not absolute. For if that were case, the biological parents and guardians who have direct authority over erring and wayward students that commit atrocities outside their homes are similarly bound by the same, if not parallel, spirit that the “in logo parentis” presumes.

Senate President Miguel Zubiri, another Mindanao lawmaker, was more rational in his standpoint on the legal rule. Instead of schools unnecessarily dragged into undesired and costly litigations, he suggests that students, upon enrolment, shall be required to declare if he is a fraternity member or not instead of mere orientation. This is an add-on to an already prevalent practice of banning frats in side campuses and expulsing students who violate the rule.

But the ban is restricted to activities inside the campus. Joining frats outside school premises is protected by the constitutional freedom to organize or assemble. In this case, any frat engagement outside that results in death cannot be directly blamed on the school authorities because common sense tells us that any institution for that matter is not father or mother to anybody outside the territory of its actual obligation.

If schools are to be blamed to frat deaths or any form of destructive outcome that injures or kills a student, it is safe argue that state colleges and universities deserve the top spot. Haven’t we forgotten that many of the student leaders from public campuses have been engaged in the overthrow of the government, an objective that is even more aggravating than frat membership?

And why blame schools for the caprices of students outside the campus? If Congress has already enacted several laws to contain and stop frat hazing to no avail, does imposing penalty on learning institutions in regard to frats more effective than really implementing the sttutes the lawmakers have deliberated in public hearings and eventually approved in the plenary?

If schools are to be blamed for students joining the frats despite contrary regulations the institutions have imposed, why not enact also a law that blames parents and guardians for their failure to rear ‘peaceful’ children who are well oriented in the dangers of anti-hazing?

Buck-passing, as Sen. Dela Rosa wants to emphasize, is not an accurate and appropriate response to stopping frat hazing. If laws cannot perform what they are intended for, it follows that there are dodges in the way educational guidelines on campus organizations are regulated, controlled, or executed. In the meantime, the recommendation of Sen. Zubiri makes more sense while legal loopholes are still to be mended or patched.


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